A Whirlwind with a Wedding, Wonderland and Water

We may have only been here for 3 weeks, but look at all we have done in that time! Such adventures!

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I’ve been in Ottawa since June 11th. It’s hard to believe that this is only 3 weeks considering what we’ve done in that time:

  • Unpacked what feels like a million boxes
  • Visited and completed school & bus registration for fall 2017 for Mr. T&H
  • Celebrated my sister’s wedding and welcomed Rick to the family!!
  • Attended a local “Paint Nite” fundraiser and painted a night sky canvas with friends
  • Hosted out of town family and guests
  • Driven to Toronto to make an airport drop off of family (that was visiting for the wedding)
  • Camped in a Yurt at JELLYSTONE PARK and met my alter ego, Yogi Bear!
  • Visited Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughn, Ontario
  • Experienced a lot of rain and crazy storms including thunder, lightening, and hail like I’ve never seen before!
  • Spent a few afternoons at the summer cottage, swimming and boating and relaxing by the river
  • Took a hop on / hop off bus tour of Ottawa in an open top double decker bus while it rained
  • Celebrated Canada’s 150th with millions of other people, visited the Carp Farmer’s Market… but spent it mostly at home since it was pouring rain and kids were cranky!
  • Explored our neighbourhood by foot, bike and car

What a whirlwind!

We are finally settling into our new normal routine, after this whirlwind start to our time in Ottawa.

One of my favourite things from the past 3 weeks has been welcoming Rick to our family! After weeks of rainy cold weather, their wedding day dawned sunny with clear blue skies and seasonally warm temperatures. We got a taste of what a true Ottawa summer would be like! The ceremony was a traditional Anglican wedding and the reception was hosted on the back lawn of the church under cover of a big white tent. It was the perfect reception for this low-key, relaxed couple.

They welcomed all members of their church to attend both the ceremony and the reception and I was lucky enough to meet many of these lovely people. A friend of mine offered to take photographs of the people who were at the wedding and so the two of us went around to each table and offered to take photos of the guests. It was a wonderful gift that Belle Images offered to my sister and I’m incredibly grateful for the gift of her time and talents on this day. (She takes exquisite photographs of people, animals and plants in the beautiful outdoors as well as inspiring landscapes from all over the world… if you are looking for some wonderful photographic artwork, I recommend Karen. But I might be a tad biased since I’ve known Karen for over 30 years!)

I am so happy to welcome Rick to our family! The most important part is that Rick loves my sister and makes her happy, and really that is all I could ask for in a brother in law. But over the years that Rick and my sister have been together, Rick has shown us that he has a huge heart and a deep love of family, whether that is family by blood or by choice. He wants to support our family, even the crazy people in it, and is willing to put himself out in order to do that. He believes in family. Rick has strong opinions on topics that matter to him and he’s not afraid to voice them, backing up his opinions with facts and stats, showing me how intelligent and diligent he is. He’s not just a “hot head” but he cares enough about these things to educate himself and others on the topics, in a respectful manner. And he’s got a goofy sense of humour which doesn’t hurt. He’s willing to laugh at himself first, and never at the expense of others. I love how excited and happy he was to marry my sister… he was like a teenager and it was adorable to see.

Plus he’s got excellent taste in rum! 🙂

I’m really happy that Gillian met you Rick… welcome to our crazy little family!

Before the ceremony, my sister told me she had one job for me to do. She handed me her phone and said, “I need you to update my Facebook status before Rick. He always gets there first.” With glee I took the phone and was happy to update her status as soon as the priest announced that they were married!

What I didn’t think about until 30 minutes later is that my sister gave me her phone, with the lock off, and I had free access to take photos on it! And so we did! We took so many fun photos that day on her phone… leaving her with the “back of the room” record of the wedding reception shall we say? Well they DID say that their theme was FUN… I think I delivered quite nicely!

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Well after the merriment of the wedding, we decided to head down to Canada’s Wonderland for a short visit. We were driving Miss S. to the Toronto airport anyway, and this was something we wanted to do anyway. We thought “why not?!”

If we had looked at the weather forecast we may have changed our mind!

While this was the view as we left Arnprior the day before our drive to Toronto, it is pretty much identical to what the sky looked like as we drove into Toronto, and later as we approached our campsite at Jellystone Park! We drove through sunshine but also rain, thunder and lightening, and hail!

Storm

As we arrived at Jellystone Park, the skies opened up creating a lake where our fire pit should be! But at some point, you just have to throw up your hands and embrace the wet and mud (after a quick trip to buy some rain ponchos and extra clothes for Miss D) … some of us embraced it a little too closely… ha ha!

The next day dawned chilly but the sun was shining through the clouds so we made our way to WONDERLAND for a day of rollercoasters and fun. The boys embraced the fun and Miss D warmed up to it after a mid-morning nap in the stroller. The skies did open up periodically but we had the rain ponchos and changes of clothing so all went well. The water rides were a little chilly though! Thankfully we’d thrown in bathing suits so they had dry and warm clothes to change into afterwards!

It was a great way to reconnect as a family after a month of being apart or on the go. And such fun sharing my memories of Wonderland with my kids! T&H were the perfect age to go as they could ride anything they wanted, were brave enough to go on the rides on their own, could walk the whole day without losing it, knew when they’d had enough and were ready to go home. As I said to them early in the day, “If we do everything the first day, there’s no reason to come back to Wonderland next year!” They took that to heart so we heard no objections when we left the park shortly after 6 PM. The next morning, Yogi Bear made an appearance at the campsite and it was a great distraction as we packed up to head home. It was truly the highlight of my trip.

You see, my alter ego is Yogi Bear. It has been my “camp name” for 30+ years and I strongly associate with the fun loving, picnic basket stealing, character. He is a character that you don’t see that often and his popularity seems to be waning, but I still adore him! My sister and I made up stories about your camp nick names that involved a mission trip to Africa, goats and a village elder. We strung the entire camp along on our hoax for the summer and there are some campers still today, all grown up that they are, that still believe our make believe story despite it being completely far fetched and pretty much impossible!

Ask me about it sometime… it’s a great story!

Our little family is now settling into the next chapter in our lives, getting into a routine of work and play for all of us.

And sadly, next week Mr. T&H head back to BC for 6 weeks with their father. We will miss them when they go! That will be the next great adventure!

On the Dinosaur Trail

Traveling by car from Shuswap Lake (BC) to Drumheller (AB)… adventures on the road!

June 5-6, 2017: Shuswap Lake Provincial Park (BC) to Drumheller (AB)

Driving Distance: 692 km

Driving Time (via google maps): 7 hours, 26 minutes

National Parks visited/driven through: Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Yoho, Banff

Driving Time (actual time spent in transit from one place to the other): 12 hours!

We had hoped to travel as far as Revelstoke on our first day of driving in order to make day 2 more manageable, but a late start meant that we only got as far as Shuswap Lake. We could have gone further but I’m very glad we stopped when we did and had a good evening together at a park we were familiar with. We’d camped here 2 summers ago and had a fantastic time with the people we’d met on that trip. The kids enjoyed biking around the park and having a campfire that night. We reminisced about our first summer camping there.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you choose to look at it…) I had a horrible night’s sleep, sandwiched between two restless boys who took turns hitting me in the face and snoring and teeth grinding in my ear. At 4 AM, 2 crows decided to have an argument over our tent and I called it a night. I got up and started packing up. By 6 AM, we were on the road again, 2 sleepy boys in the back seat. I stopped in Salmon Arm for a Starbucks coffee and all was well with the world!

About an hour down the highway, Mr. T was excited to see a sign pointing us to a historic landmark: “Last Spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway”. He’d learned all about the CPR in school this year and it had captured his interest… he was often telling us facts and stories about the CPR. Needless to say, we stopped. (In reading that wikipedia link above, I learned how controversial that last spike occasion was! Who knew?!)

 

T really wants his teacher Ms. K to see this!

As we were leaving this impromptu stop, I noticed a decorated garbage can with writing on it… The Garbage Gobbler!

 

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The first Garbage Gobblers were designed and created by Len Shaw, for the B.C. Parks Branch in the 1950s. Originally made from concrete (and later with fiberglass), Gobblers were placed across the province in B.C. Parks and at information points along BC highways in order to “Keep Beautiful British Columbia Green and Clean”. Junior Garbage Gobbler car trash bags were also part of the provincial litter reduction strategy. Motorists were encouraged to feed the “Junior” bags to the roadside gobblers along the way.

Sadly, Garbage Gobblers proved to be as popular with bears as they were with people and eventually had to be replaced in favour of bear proof-cans (which were not as artsy, but much more practical).

It was a great start to the day and it wasn’t even 8 AM yet!

After many discussions, we all decided together that, even though it would mean a really long day in the car, we wanted to get to Drumheller tonight. We wanted to be able to just wake up in the morning and not have to pack up the car, but rather could just enjoy being in Drumheller! But being mindful that it is still about the journey, not the destination, we made ample stops along the route, enjoying the road, the mountain pass, and the tunes playing. T & H loved the last 2 hours where I let them just continue to play on the iPads because I was exhausted and couldn’t handle the constant chatter and arguments!

We stopped in Banff and had planned for lunch at Lake Louise but decided at the last minute to visit Moraine Lake instead. We got the bikes off the car and went for a little ride down to the lake. The boys climbed the big pile of rocks there… how could they not?! I marvelled at the scenery and was very glad I’d brought my sweatshirt… it was very chilly! There were many tourists shivering in t-shirts!

 

I can only imagine how busy the lake is in the summer with car and bus loads of tourists! It was pretty busy on this day and it’s not the height of the season yet.

Back in the car we got and we pushed it to Drumheller. I had to make a stop in Canmore for coffee and a break for my eyes, but otherwise we pushed it onwards. I started to second guess myself and truly considered stopping in Canmore for the night. After about an hour’s break, I was good to go though. And i’m glad we did.

Drumheller…

It always amazes me how you are driving into the middle of nowhere on the Canadian badlands, when the road dips down into a deep ravine and all of a sudden you are in another world. In the case of Drumheller, hidden in the Red River Valley is everything you would imagine a tourist location to have: Walmart, McDonald’s, and kitschy tourist shops. Since Drumheller is also known as Dinosaur Valley, it also has the “World’s Largest Dinosaur”… which entertained the boys to no end.

 

We continued onto our campsite (River Grove Campground) and, after a half hour of mix ups and moving from one side of the site to the other, we found #23 site, set off by itself and surrounded by lovely bushes and trees.

Unfortunately, we have a large, difficult tent to put up and it’s been over a year since we’ve used this particular tent (we used the smaller one for the first night in Shuswap). We were all 3 tired, hungry and getting bitten extensively by mosquitoes. An hour later, the tent was up… though without the fly (we put that up later)… and we had abandoned the idea of cooking dinner. McDonald’s it was. It was a momentous occasion since Mr. H ate his first full Quarter Pounder with Cheese! This is the child who, 2 months ago, could barely finish a plain cheeseburger… bring on the growth spurt!!!

Big orange tent home!
Home Sweet Home (for 2 nights at least)

 

Today (June 6) was about relaxation and dinosaurs!

We slept in… hooray!

After a breakfast of pancakes, we set off for the World’s Largest Dinosaur (boys went up, I stayed down) and then the Royal Tyrell Museum. We bought a 2 day pass so we could take our time, not pushing ourselves to do it all in one day!

Great fun though sadly over run by school kids on a field trip.

 

 

And now… now we are all relaxing at this campsite. Modern camping, where there is a wifi signal available, but not a lot of kindling for campfires!

The journey so far has been good. We’ve covered a lot of ground geographically and I’m spending some time learning to slow down and be in the moment.

At the museum, there were many stories posted of workers and regular people who, by slowing down and being observant, had made great dinosaur fossil discoveries in their regular every day lives. There is a lesson here I’m sure. God has made for us a beautiful world, if we only remember to open our eyes and see it, truly see it, as we go about the tasks of daily living. There are many opportunities each day for me to make a choice: whether to be irritated by something someone says or does, or to take a deep breath and carry on with a cheerful disposition. Some days are harder than others to be cheerful! But, by pausing to take a deep breath, sometimes closing my eyes and counting to 3 or 5, I can turn the moment around.

There is a song I was listening to yesterday: How Mighty is the Silence. It is a song by little known duo Lowen and Navarro. They are speaking about when Eric Lowen was given the diagnosis of ALS (he succumbed to the disease in 2012). But silence is mighty, no matter the circumstances. In this song, they talk about how hearts break in the silence. But I believe that hearts can also be healed in moments of silence. We often rush to fill silence with words, noise, music, when silence would heal us.

And so, on this journey, I am learning to slow down and listen, to enjoy the moment rather than rushing to get to the next destination, to listen to my children in their excitement about a fossil or a computer game with equal enthusiasm which astounds me… Silence and my presence in the moment is mighty and is the source of memories.

Camping or Comfort? What would you do?

We love to camp and to be outdoors.

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Happy Hiking Boys, Miracle Beach, July 2012?

Ever since the boys have started school we try to kick off our summer vacation with a week of camping, somewhere in BC, as a transition between the hectic end of school activities and the relaxation of summer months.

We’ve been lucky to be able to do this consistently for the past 6 years.

We’ve been to Miracle Beach Provincial Park, Tofino, Manning Park, Shuswap Lake, and Naramata. Usually we’ve gone camping but we have also been able to rent some rustic cabins when we needed a bit more comfort in certain years. We’ve all loved the time outdoors to reconnect as a family, and to experience the awe of nature.

We have had some unbelievable experiences along the way and it has very much become part of our family tradition. I also realize that this is very much a part of my childhood and growing up experiences. I was lucky enough to spend the majority of my childhood camping across Canada and indeed North America! I was very fortunate.

(I’m the one mugging it up for the camera… always!)

And I would like very much to recreate these memories with my children this summer, as we travel from West to East.

But I also know that we will be travelling in early June when weather is iffy at best, and mosquitoes are perhaps at their worst in some provinces. And we will all be exhausted by the emotions of leaving the familiarity of BC behind, combined with the craziness of April & May, wrapping up schools & jobs, packing up our house, box lacrosse season (which is ridiculously intense I have to say) and the added stress of H being at BCCH for 4 weeks before we leave.

So I’m considering staying in hotels along the way instead of camping. Or maybe a combination of camping & hotels? Camping will be fantastic, but there is something to be said for warm beds, hot showers, and no setting up/taking down of our accommodation every single night. I’ll be the sole adult responsible for all of this which is an added stress. BUT there is also something to be said for the peacefulness of a campground and sitting by a crackling fire at night.

It is Canada’s 150th Birthday celebration and we have a free National Park pass! What better way to celebrate our great nation by really getting out and seeing it from all angles.

And I really want to share my cross Canada camping experience with my children. But I’m also gonna be really really tired by that point!

What would you do? Camping or Comfort? Follow Family Traditions or Move to the Future?